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“So this is mutiny.” The man from the CDC slanted his eyes toward President Ryman and his remaining agents. “This is treason.”

None of the Secret Servicemen were reaching for their guns, and the look on President Ryman’s face wasn’t shock or outrage—it was relief, like this was what he’d been waiting for all along. “You’d know about that, wouldn’t you?” he asked. I’d never heard him sound so bitter. “Treason? That’s something you at the CDC have been experts on for quite a while.”

The man from the CDC’s eyes widened in exaggerated shock. “I don’t understand what you’re implying, Mr. President.”

“Emily’s safe,” said George. “The EIS has her. Steve’s getting the kids out of the building. They can’t hold your family over you anymore.”

“Do you think it’s that simple?” asked the man from the CDC. “We’ve had a long time to get to where we are today. You’re making a large mistake. People have died for less.”

“People have died for nothing,” George shot back. “And no, I don’t think it’s that simple. But I do think you made one major tactical error when you invited us here.”

The man from the CDC sneered. “What’s that?”

“We’re the ones that people listen to… and we’re the ones who learned about backups from Georgette Meissonier.” George smiled. “Anybody here who doesn’t have six cameras running, raise your hand.”

Not a single member of my team raised their hand. Becks grinned. Alaric smirked.

And the man from the CDC, perhaps realizing that he was finished, moved. Jamming his hand into his pocket, he pulled out the pen he’d been holding before, aiming it at the president. The Secret Servicemen shouted something, grabbing Ryman’s shoulders. Not fast enough. There was no way they’d be able to get him clear fast enough. I didn’t think. I just jumped, putting myself between the man from the CDC and President Ryman half a second before I heard the sound of Georgia’s gun going off.

The man from the CDC froze, looking slowly down at the spreading red patch in the middle of his chest. The pen dropped from his hand and he fell, crumpling to the floor. The last sound he made was a hollow thud when his head hit the tile. It was almost comic, in a weird way.

No one was laughing. They were all staring at me. Becks had a hand covering her mouth, and Alaric looked like he was about to be sick. Only Georgia didn’t look distraught; mostly, she looked confused. Lowering her gun, she asked, “What is that?”

I looked at the needle sticking out of my chest, anchored in the flesh a few inches to the right of my sternum. It hurt a little, now that I was thinking about it. It would probably hurt more once the adrenaline washed out of my system.

“Oh,” I said, my words almost drowned out by the sound of one of the Secret Servicemen emptying his gun into the man from the CDC’s head. “That’s a problem.”

You know what’s awesome? Assholes who do all their research, and have all the pieces of the puzzle, and can’t be bothered with anything that doesn’t fit the picture they’ve decided they’re putting together. You know. Idiots. The kind of stupid you can manage to achieve only by being really, really smart, because only really, really smart people can reach adulthood without having any goddamn common sense.

Seriously. Thank you, smart people, for being absolute idiots. I appreciate it.

—From Adaptive Immunities, the blog of Shaun Mason, August 7, 2041. Unpublished.

Kill me once, shame on you.

Kill me twice, shame on me.

Kill my brother? Oh, it’s on. And you are not going to enjoy it.

—From Living Dead Girl, the blog of Georgia Mason II, August 7, 2041. Unpublished.

GEORGIA: Thirty-nine

Everyone stared at the needle sticking out of Shaun’s chest, their expressions showing varying degrees of shock and horror. I put the safety back on my borrowed gun and slowly lowered it, shoving it into the waistband of my pants.

No one said anything. One of the Secret Service agents pulled President Ryman back, putting more distance between him and Shaun. I tried to force myself to swallow. I remembered being hit by a similar needle in Sacramento, although mine had been attached to a syringe. “Shaun?” I said, very softly.

“The CDC weaponized Kellis-Amberlee a while ago,” said Shaun. He grimaced as he pulled the needle out of his chest. “Okay, f**king ow. Could we go with a slightly less ouch-worthy doomsday weapon next time? Not that I don’t appreciate it failing to, you know, puncture my lung or something, but that stings.”

“Put the needle down and step away from the president,” said one of the Secret Service agents. His gun was in his hand, and from his tone, he meant business.

“Shaun…” said President Ryman.

“Oh, right. You guys didn’t get the memo, did you? See, part of why they’re so into killing the people with the reservoir conditions—like, you know, George, or your wife, or Rick’s wife, who probably didn’t kill herself, and isn’t that a bitch?—part of why they’re so into that is because of whatchamacallit—”

“Antibody transference,” said Alaric. He relaxed as he spoke, some of the tension going out of his shoulders.

“Yeah, that. Turns out the reservoir conditions are sort of like, the middle step in us learning how to live with our cuddly virus buddies. People with reservoir conditions get better because they’re making antibodies. And then people who spend a lot of time with those people get something even better.” Shaun grinned at me. “We get to be immune.”


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